SJP system failure caused by human error, not tech glitch

Technology-Binary-Data-Tech-Code-700.jpgA system outage at St James Place that preventing clients from moving away from the wealth manager was due to human error rather than a technology glitch.

Tony Dunk, head of investor relations at SJP, says the problems with the back office system were due to issues with people using the system rather than a technology outage.

The problems occurred when SJP moved to a new back office system from IFDS, called Blue Door, which it installed last October.

As a result clients complained they could not access written information on their investments, causing severe delays when withdrawing cash, while written information on client Isa and unit trust holdings could not be sent out to clients.

Advisers say the written information could only be sent to an SJP email address and not sent out more broadly, while one adviser reported waits of up to 45 days before SJP will reply to queries for client information.

In particular the tech failure stopped clients moving away from SJP. Those clients with letters of authority from a new adviser were prevented from accessing their investment holdings information, meaning new financial plans could not be drawn up.

“It was an issue with people using the system, it took longer to process simple things so we had delays. Some took a lot longer than we are used to,” he says.

The problems were with SJP partners and with back office staff, which Dunk describes as “familiarisation” issues, as people were not aware how to carry out certain reports and functions in the new system.

The tech team behind the new system launch also took away some functionality that advisers needed, he says.

The relaunch of the system coincided with the launch of pension freedoms, meaning the wealth manager saw an increase in small fund enquiries, which added to the backlog. “It was a bit of a dam of things,” adds Dunk.

“We have been throwing people at the problem since October, and now for 99 per cent of clients it works,” he says. “What it has cost us is people and time, but there will be a long-term saving.”

SJP will continue the rollout of its new back office system for the pension and life sides of the business, consolidating it from a number of back office system providers into the one IFDS system.

In its annual results, SJP claimed the transition of the unit trust and Isa business to the new back office system was “successfully completed in October”. The cost of the software change was £18.1m for 2015 and £11.9m for the previous year.